Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update, 30 December 2008

I'm off work for about ten days over the Christmas period, so between the turkey, mince pies etc I'm finding a bit of time for my favourite hobby.

Over the past month I've had a couple of new contacts on the treeing front. It's always good to hear from "new" Bankes descendants. I'm trying to make sure that when we upload the updated tree to the website in a few weeks time it is as up to date as possible, so if you do have anything to add to it now would be a good time for you to contact me.

As I think I mentioned in my last blog entry, I'm currently working on updates for the website. I'm reviewing the existing pages, and also looking at adding some new material. It will take me a little while to complete this work, as we have had a really good year in terms of interesting new discoveries, but I'll let you know when it's done.

One of the tools that has recently become widely available to family history researchers is DNA testing. I have long considered whether it would be worthwhile to have a DNA test carried out, without coming to a conclusion. The June 2008 issue of Ancestors magazine (Issue 70) carried an interesting feature on the subject. Two different people each had a DNA test carried out and reported on the results in two separate articles. Without going into a lot of detail, one of the articles was very positive about the outcome of the test, whilst the other one was very negative. I can understand that this probably suited the purposes of the magazine editor very well, as the two articles taken together put the pros and cons of DNA testing in a very tangible way, but as a means of clearing my uncertainty about such a project it didn't help at all!

In November I celebrated my 60th birthday. I had a day off work and celebrated by spending the day at home. In the evening we had a lovely family gathering and meal, and I was fortunate enough to be given some birthday gifts. One of these was a DNA test. Jan and Helen had obviously concluded that, left to my own devices, I'd never get the thing done, so they took the initiative. My thanks to both of them.

I was amazed at the speed with which the test results were available to us - less than two weeks after my saliva samples were posted off to Salt Lake City the results were there on the computer screen on Ancestry.com. Fantastic!.

What did the test results tell me?

Well, it seems that on my male side I "belong to haplogroup R1b, The Artisans, who first arrived in Europe from West Asia about 35,000 - 40,000 years ago". Evidently about 70% of people now living in southern England are descended from the Artisans, and there are also many Artisans descendants in Spain, Portugal, France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

My test results have been compared to the results of other participants, and I have been linked to a 250 people whose DNA matches mine. My nearest relations among these are four people, all resident in the USA. Two of these people who share a common ancestor with me within 13 generations, and the other two share a common ancestor with me within 15 generations. When you consider that I am 11 generations away from Mary (Rand) Mitchell (c1668-1738/9) half sister to John Bankes, it probably means that the unnamed ancestors I share with these people were born between 1550 and 1620.

My test results also matched those of a further 246 people, the matches with these occurring between 21 and 40 generations ago. That's a very long time ago!

I have the opportunity to send an email to these people, and I may do that in the case of the two who are most closely matched to me. You never know, it may result in an exciting new chapter in my Culshaw family history research!

Speaking of Culshaw research, in my last blog entry I told you about the Hesketh research that Chris had carried out. We were hoping that it would link to our Ellen Hesketh (c1761-1846). Alas, Chris tells me that it does not appear to link to our ancestor.

That's all for now. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2009, and - if you are treeing - good hunting!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update, 1 December 2008

It's blog time again.

On 30 October Helen and I joined my fellow researchers from Shropshire Family History Society on a coach trip to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew. I left with a long research list, and high hopes. How did I fare?

The number one item on my agenda was to look for any records of Thomas Hunt, Lawyer's employment as a Customs Officer in London in the 1750s. I was a complete novice as far as this piece of research was concerned, so I headed straight for the help desks, seeking advice. I had read up on the subject in advance, but it's always worthwhile to talk to the experts, I think. The prognosis by the man behind the desk was not promising. He suggested that this research would not be easy. Nevertheless, undaunted, I went on.

The man behind the desk was correct. I won't bore you by recounting the sources we checked. Suffice to say that there seems to be a gap in most of the records just about the time when our Thomas should appear. The only records that we were able to check were the Customs Officers Patent Rolls and the Warrants appointing Customs Officers, and we could not trace him in those.
Unless there is a surrogate source that we can use it looks as though we are destined to draw a blank in researching Mr Hunt's service in the Customs. Thinking caps on!

Not to worry, I had a number of other sources to look at.

We reprised some documents I had looked at on my previous visit to TNA. These were legal papers relating to the annulment of the marriage between Robert Hanham Collyer and his young wife, Emily Jeans Clements. The couple married in 1864 and had two children, but Emily discovered that Robert already had a wife - Susannah MacDonald - who was still alive. She sued for an annulment, which was granted in 1873. In 1877 Robert Hanham Collyer was sued again - by his legal representative in another action - for non-payment of legal fees. These documents are also at the TNA. I had photographed all of these documents previously, but a few of the pics were a bit blurred, so I re-photographed them on this visit. I now have a complete set of readable documents to study.

We moved on to look at a number of other sources, with varying degrees of success. We found several Court of Chancery documents relevant to the Bankes trust, and we photocopied these. As they are large documents we had to photograph them in sections, and we now need to piece together the various images, before we can study the documents.

On the whole, Chancery documents can be quite hard to read. The Bills and Responses are often very large documents, and the handwriting of two hundred years ago is not so easy to read. They were written in what you may call "legal language", and the same information was often repeated several times. On the whole it is quite difficult to spot the vital small snippet of new information that can mean so much.

If I am studying one of these documents at TNA I find that they are very time consuming, and I can spend most of my precious research time reading a document that actually doesn't tell me anything new. By photographing them I can do this work at home, meaning that I can cover more ground on my visits to Kew.

During the afternoon I ordered some Court of Chancery Masters' Reports relating to the Bankes Trust Chancery case. These documents contain the decisions that were made during the Masters in Chancery, sometimes with quite a bit of explanation of why the decisions were reached. Normally, document orders were taking about 30 minutes for the TNA staff to fulfill, so I thought I'd just have time to look at some of these. However, my order took about ninety minutes to arrive at the desk, so I ran out of time.I only had time to look at one item. This was very frustrating, and added to the frustration I had felt in the early stages of our visit. I had ordered the Collyer legal papers in advance of my visit via the TNA website, and they should have been ready for me to use on arrival. In fact they were not. For some reason my order had not been processed, and I had to wait for about 30 minutes before I could start work.

As a result of these delays, I wasted the best part of two hours possible research time, and as we only had six hours at TNA, this was very disappointing.

Better luck next time!

Jan and I paid another visit to Staffordshire Archives, in Staford recently, to complete our transcription of the Blagg entries in the Cheadle parish registers. The Blaggs are a most interesting family. It is apparent from the regoisters that they were prosperous people in the nineteenth century - John Michael Blagg (1793-1878) was a solicitor, as was his son - Charles John Blagg (1833-1915). The available records suggest that the family moved to Cheadle, Staffs in the eighteenth century from Nottinghamshire. I'm sure that a delve in the Nottinghamshire archives would be rewarded with much information. There are several connections to the clergy - notably Susan Anne Blagg (c1827-1888) married Richard Rawle (1812–1889), bishop of Trinidad!

Mary Adela Blagg (1858-1944) was a famous astronomer; a crater on the moon was named after her. As I've mentioned in previous entries, my interest in this family stems from the fact that Arthur Ackland Hunt (1841-1914), the artist, who features in Geoffs Genealogy, married Emma Sarah Blagg (1838-1896) at Cheadle on 24 July 1879.

If anybody reading this has an interest in this clan I'd be glad to hear from them. Although they are fairly distantly connected to my forebears I nevertheless find them very interesting people.

A number of other developments have occurred in my research over the past few weeks, and I'll mention a couple of them briefly before closing.

Firstly, Barbara, a Bankes descendant on the Fiveash line, has told me about a gathering of her clan that she attended during October. She has sent me some information about her Fiveash forebears that she obtained at this event, and I'm busily adding that to the pedigree at present. My thanks to Barbara for that.

Now to a brief mention of the Culshaws. These are my Lancashire forebears, and I'm sad to say that they get an absurdly small amount of my research time because the Bankes Pedigree is so endlessly interesting. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Chris, a fellow Culshaw descendant, contacted me with some potentially significant information. She had been doing a bit of research on the internet and came across a family of Heskeths, living in North Meols in Lancashire, who could possibly be our Hesketh forebears. We have known for some years that John Culshaw (c1761-1841) married Ellen Hesketh (c1761-1846) at Ormskirk on 20 Feb 1787. These are the furthest back Culshaws we have traced, and the problem has been to identify their parents. Well, it is possible that the Ellen Hesketh who Chris found at North Meols (bap 19 Sep 1761, parents William & Catharine (sic) could just be our ancestor. How to test this out?
We need to scour the records for a relevant Hesketh will, or a helpful MI, or something similar.
I feel a new year trip to Lancashire coming up!

Incidentally, Chris found this piece of information by carrying out a search of the National Archives website, which indicates how widely we should all be spreading our nets in the course of our searches.

My thoughts are now turning to the next updates of the website. I have so much material that I could upload that I'm really spoiled for choice, but it all needs some work done to it, and time is quite short. I shall try to get some of it on the site before too long, but at present I'm concentrating on getting the tree as up to date as I can, so that it is as complete as possible when we upload. Helen and I usually upload to the site every January, but I'm not sure that we will manage to do that this year. It may be somewhat later.

Cheers for now.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 28 October 2008

I have been busy over the past few weeks, preparing the next edition if the Shropshire Family History Society journal, which is due to thud on to the doormats of our members in early December.

I have a trip to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew planned for the end of October, travelling on a coach trip organised by the Shropshire FHS. These trips are very good value, and enable us to have about six hours at The National Archives, depending on how good a journey we have, of course. I've been visiting TNA for a long time now, and have seen many changes there.

When I first visited the Public Records Office, as TNA was then known, I used to research at Chancery Lane in the centre of London. There was little or no computerisation in those days, and thus the systems there were relatively unsophisticated. At the time some of the records were held at the PRO's premises at Kew, but I found it more convenient to visit Chancery Lane, and most of the records I wanted to see were at that location, so I very rarely went to Kew. I well remember that my first forays into the records of the Court of Chancery - looking in wonder at the documents dating from the 1770s relating to the cause Mitchell v Holloway - took place at Chancery Lane. I also recall looking at microfilm copies of PPC wills and non-conformist records in the Rolls Chapel at Chancery Lane.

My visits to the PRO's newer premises at Kew were rare at that time. The first time I went there, with Helen - my daughter - we only had a few hours there, and really only had time to sample briefly the the computerised document ordering system! What wonders!

Eventually, the inexorable process of modernisation meant that all the records were moved from these wonderful old buildings at Chancery lane to the newly extended modern facilities at Kew. The PRO at Chancery Lane closed its doors for the last time in 1997, and a new facility was provided at the Family Records Centre, Islington, to enable researchers to use a number of key groups of records records - censuses, births marriages & deaths, non conformist records to name but three - in London.

Regrettably, earlier this year, the Family Records Centre closed. The records which it held on microfilm and fiche are available for researchers at Kew, but the big books that contain the civil registration indexes of births, marriages and deaths are no longer available for use. The UK government had a plan to digitise these indexes, and make them available both at Kew and on the internet, but it seems that that scheme has has encountered problems when only about half completed, and there appears to be no solution in sight. Until this problem is resolved, availability of the Civil Registration indexes is somewhat limited:
  • Microfiche at TNA Kew and various other repositories around the country.
  • Free BMD
  • Various commercial websites
Personally, although I subscribe to Ancestry.co.uk, I generally use Free BMD to search the civil registration indexes. The coverage of events up to about 1900 is pretty near 100%, and the search screens are clear and easy to use. The volunteers who have toiled away for years to bring the project to this point are fantastic, I think, and we should all be grateful to them. Ancestry also have the Free BMD index, but in my opinion their presentation of the data is not as clear as FreeBMD.

Anyway, enough of this digression. The point of this entry is really to reminisce about the halcyon days when the records were more easily available (at least to my mind) in central London, and to recall the many wonderful discoveries that I've made at Kew - too numerous to list here, I'm afraid. The most exciting discoveries I have yet made in my research were the bundle of documents relating to Bankes's business affairs.I have included images of a few of these on my website. These documents included tradesmen's bills for work done on Bankes's properties, rental agreements between Bankes and some of his tenants, and a set of handwritten receipts and outgoings accounts, in Bankes's own hand. Family history doesn't get much better than that!

Each time I go to TNA I never know whether I shall come away having found out nothing, or whether I am about to add another previously unknown treasure to my personal archive.

I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Geoff's Genealogy Update 27 September 2008

Hello again.

When I signed off my last entry on this blog I mentioned the upcoming open day at Haberdashers' Hall, London. Well, I'm delighted to say that I made the trip to London last Saturday with Jan & Helen, and together we enjoyed a terrific day out in the capital. This open day was part of the annual Open House London event, whereby on 20-21 September a number of houses around London were open for the public to visit free of charge. Luckily the weather was lovely for this event, and we noticed that there were many people walking the streets of our capital, seemingly en route to the next house on their itinerary. According to the information on the Open House London website the day was a great success.

So, what of our first visit to the new Haberdashers' Hall?

I must say, we were very impressed. It is quite fashionable to knock modern architecture, but I thought that this was a superb building. The facade blends well with the surrounding buildings in West Smithfield, but when you cross the portals and make your way into the building you come face to face with a lovely courtyard . The courtyard is grassed, with a most attractive fountain at its centre.In the walkways around the courtyard were displayed a number of interesting items, including sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Lynn Chadwick.

We entered the Orangery and were greatly impressed by a painting of a Panorama of the Modern City of London by Jeffrey Morgan. This was a very attractive work, but what struck us most were the figures painted into the foreground of the picture. These were four eminent members - Princess Margaret, Sir Robin Brook, Robert Aske of the Haberdashers' Company - Princess Margaret, Sir Robin Brook, Robert Aske and "our" John Bankes (c1652-1719)! The artist had copied Bankes as he appears in his portrait, which has hung at successive Haberdashers' Halls since his death in 1719.

We went up the stairs, to visit the suite of rooms on the first floor. These are very fine indeed, and they contain many treasures. We saw many fine paintings (including works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Kneller and Romney) much beautiful furniture, and many interesting and impressive artefacts. However, the item that we really wanted to see was the portrait of John Bankes, which still hangs in the Company's Court Room, as laid down in Bankes's will.

A few years ago I contacted the National Portrait Gallery in the hope that they could tell me something about the Bankes portrait. Of course, I would have liked them to be able to tell me when it was painted, and who was the likely artist, but I knew that it was rather a long shot so was not too disappointed when I got their response. They said (quite fairly) that it was not possible to date the portrait, or begin the process of attribution, without having access to the original. They considered that "... like so many city portraits the hand is competent but not recognisable.."

We spent quite some time gazing at the Bankes portrait, and taking photographs. To me this is the most wonderful thing. To be able to see an image of our benefactor, nearly 300 years after he died!

Usually the artefacts in portraits dating from Bankes's time were included to tell the viewer what type of person the subject was - his trade, or religion, his values etc. With this in mind I have tried, many times, to make sense of the iconography of this picture. On the table by Bankes there is a hat, and some other items. As far as I can make out these seem to be a light coloured cloth, a pair of compasses and some needles of some kind (probably wooden). I realise that I've almost certainly mis-identified some of these items, but if anybody reading this feels able to put me right I'll be delighted for you to do so. Try as I might, I cannot understand what the items tell us about Bankes. On this visit we were able to have a close-up look at the picture with this in mind, but we still were no nearer to understanding it, I'm afraid.

One other point - do the clothes worn by Bankes tell us anything about him, apart from the general point that he was a prosperous man?

One thing that struck me about the picture this time is that Bankes looks quite a young man. Possibly in his middle age. I have always thought that the portrait was probably painted to mark him becoming being Master of the Company, but he was in his 60s then, and he looks much younger than that. This throws up a number of possibilities. For example, maybe Bankes was in his 60s , but the artist flattered him by making him look younger - distinctly possible - or maybe the portrait was painted somewhat earlier in Bankes's life. If anybody reading this has any ideas on these and any other points, I'll be very pleased to hear from them.

Our visit to Haberdashers' Hall was completed by a short meeting with David Bartle, the company Archivist. He very kindly spared us a few minutes for a chat, and a look at the Bankes Pedigree Books. Yes - you read that correctly. There are two pedigree books. One of them is exactly as it was when it was created at the start of the 20th century - by Mr Eagleton, I think. The other copy is updated with any additional information about the Bankes pedigree that the company receives. Jan and Helen had never seen the pedigree boook before, and were very pleased to be able to put that right.

We left Haberdashers' Hall having enjoyed our visit greatly, and with a very favourable impression of the building which, I think, effectively combines the modern with the traditional. The building is well lit throughout, and has a very spacious feel, compared to the previous hall in Staining Lane. The Company's collection of pictures and artefacts are able to be displayed to very great advantage.

Having completed our main mission for the day, we were left to decide what to do in the remaining couple of hours before leaving for home. After a brief discussion we opted for a visit to Bunhill Fields, the great non-conformist burial ground in the City of London. A number of Bankes descendants were buried in this burial ground, including Joseph Collyer the Younger (1748-1827) and members of his family, and my direct ancestors, Ann Hunt (c1770-1811) and her spouse John Stephens (c1770-1802).

A great many non-conformists were buried at Bunhill fields over several centuries up to the 1850s. It is now managed by the Corporation of London as a garden, and I must saw it is beautifully maintained. There are two main paths that criss-cross the burial ground, and a sizeable grassed area with seating, where one can sit and enjoy the calm atmosphere of this tree-shaded haven. There are a number of famous people buried there, and we saw the graves of Daniel Defoe (writer of Robinson Crusoe) Susannah Wesley (wife of John Wesley) and John Bunyan (writer of the Pilgrim's Progress). The footpaths have been laid out so that visitors can easily see these graves, but the rest of the graveyard is only viewable through railings - a necessary precaution, I would think, to guard against damage. Thus, it was not possible for us to attempt a visit to the graves of our forebears.

We very much enjoyed the short time we spent in Bunhill Fields. It is a very restful place, and with the sun shining through the many trees, it looked very attractive.

As we left Bunhill Fields we noted the great Methodist Chapel on the other side of the road. This was John Wesley's chapel , and next to it is his house, which is also open to the public. We just had time to go into the chapel - which is a quite magnificent building - and Wesley's house. The house is quite small and modestly furnished, and contains many items that were once Wesley's possessions. Among these are his christening robe, his spectacles, a lock of his hair, items of his clothing, and a number of items of furniture. The house was staffed by two guides who were simply bubbling with enthusiasm, and very knowledgable on their subject. We learned a lot in our short visit, and left the capital having had a really super day.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 September 2008

I'm a lucky chap. Since my last blog entry I have had a pretty good time.

Firstly, at the start of August I went off to Portugal for a week of sunshine, good food, and super company on the Algarve. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this holiday, and a brief escape from the rigours of an appalling English summer.

Secondly, over the August bank holiday weekend Jan and I went to North Wales. We stayed a couple of nights at Llandudno, in a really lovely bed & breakfast. It is many years since we last visited Llandudno, and I had quite forgotten what a fine traditional seaside resort it is. It truly is well worth a visit, if you have a mind to spend some time in North Wales. The reason for our brief sojourn in the town was our annual visit to Bryn Terfel's opera gala night at the Faenol festival. Although the weather over the weekend was pretty fair, on the evening in question it was quite poor, although the rain did hold off for the duration of the concert. However, the concert was quite as wonderful as it always is. Bryn was joined by Diana Damrau (soprano), Nadia Krasteva (mezzo) and Johan Botha (tenor) - all great stars of the Opera world, and they gave us a terrific show.

We have one more open air event to attend this year, and we are praying for a decent evening (seems unlikely though). On 13 September we go to Swansea to attend the BBC Proms in the Park concert - the Last Night of the Proms. Last year we enjoyed this event enormously, so we are going again.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to be contacted by Glenva, in Australia. She is a distant cousin of mine on the Holliday line, and we have exchanged information about our respective Holliday forebears. Our common ancestors were John Holliday (c1812-1874) and his wife, Louisa Matthews (b c1826). It will take me a while to enter up all the material Glenva has sent me, but I shall have the job completed before long.

The Hollidays are not Bankes descendants. They are the family of my late grandmother - Alice Louisa (Holliday) Smith(1891-1982), who married George William Smith (1886-1940). You can find them on the tree on my website. The Hollidays seeem to me to exemplify a recurring theme in family history research which I find endlessly fascinating - the way in which a family's economic and social fortunes can turn around completely. This usually seems to happen as a result of a single chance event, such as a fortunate or unfortunate marriage.
Those of you who have watched the BBC TV series Who do you think you are will have observed this many times. Recently it showed how the fortunes of Patsy Kensit's forebears had veered between pillar of the community respectability and criminality.

I think it fair to say that over the last couple of centuries the Hollidays have generally been pretty ordinary working folk. They do not seem to have been particularly prosperous, in fact in one particular case in 1901 family members were in a London workhouse. Around 1880 James Frederick Holliday (1853-1938), a cousin of my great grandfather, decided to go to Bolivia to visit his brother, an engineer working in that country. In the course of his trip he stopped off in Santos, Brazil. There he had an encounter with a British man, the upshot of which was that he got a job working in Brazil and settled there. See what I mean about a family's fortunes turning on a chance event? In 1882 James married Elizabeth Daly (c1856-1926) in Rio de Janeiro, and they founded a branch of Brazilian Hollidays. This branch of the family seems to have lived through a few turbulent times, but came through to achieve considerable prosperity - leaving their British relations standing, in fact. If you look at the Holliday Family in Brazil Blog
you will be able to read their story. George Holliday has set up this blog, which is effectively a Holliday family archive. Lots of wonderful stuff here - photos, transcriptions of letters and much more.

My cousin Pat has been beavering away of late, investigating John Bankes (c1652-1719). She had found that a certain Edward Banks, Haberdasher of London, was a Sheriff of the City of London in 1563-4, and wondered whether he could be a forebear of our John Bankes, Haberdasher. She carried out a very interesting piece of research, obtaining the wills of several members of Edward Banks's family. They came from Shelford in Cambridgeshire.

The upshot of all this effort is that there was not an obvious connection between our JB and the Shelford family, but - of course - that does not necessarily mean that no connection existed. The hunt goes on!

Another recent contact was Barbara, who is descended from Anne Deane, half sister to John Bankes, on the Fiveash line. Her grandmother was Alice Maud Fiveash (b 1883) and her husband, Richard Williams. Barbara has kindly sent me some information about her grandmother's family and the line down to her, all of which was "news to me". Another part of the Bankes Pedigree filled in.

The time of the open weekend at Haberdashers' Hall draws near, and I'm certainly hoping to take the opportunity of visiting the new Hall. If I make it I'll tell you about it in my next blog entry.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 29 July 2008

As I write this entry the rain is beating down outside my house with extreme force, accompanied by the repeated cracks of thunder and lightning. A really spectacular storm is signalling the end of the five days spell of gorgeous, summery weather that we have enjoyed in the UK. The rain is much needed, however - at least the garden won't need watering for a few days.

The open air performance of Shakespear's Hamlet that we attended at Stafford Castle a couple of weeks ago was absolutely great. Amazingly, given the prevailing weather at the time, the evening was dry - so the cast did not get a soaking. However, it was very cold. Jan and I felt so cold that we were shivering - in July!

The play itself was performed superbly, by a fine cast of professional actors and actresses. The director has proved in previous years that he has a genius for extracting the maximum comedy from Shakespeare, and after being brought up on the 1940s Olivier film of Hamlet, it was a revelation to me to see how much humour is actually present in such a tragedy.

Our next open air event is Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival near Bangor in North Wales. We are going to the Opera Gala on 23 August, and hoping for a warm, balmy evening to match what will undoubtedly be a spectacular event. It always is!

On to treeing matters.

Anybody who has followed my family history interests will know that the Haberdashers' Company is central to my research. John Bankes was Master of that company, and the company administers the Bankes Trust, from which many Bankes descendants have benefitted over the nearly 300 years since Bankes died. In fact, I recently found out that even today there is at least one Bankes descendant now living who is a Freeman of the company.

In 2002 the Company moved from its old Hall in Staining lane in the City of London to a newly build Hall near St Barts Hospital. Although I had visited Staining Lane on a number of occasions, and in so doing enjoyed the benefit of using the Company's archives, I have never yet managed to visit the new Hall. Hopefully I shall be able to rectify this omission on the weekend of 20-21 September, when the Company has an open weekend. I shall certainly do my best to get there, and enjoy a tour of the new hall. I can see from the pictures on the Company's website (see above link) that it is a magnificent building.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the Haberdashers' Company has handed over pretty well all its records to the Guildhall Library, so if you want to research them that's the place to go to.

In my last entry I told you briefly of our visit a few weeks ago to meet Hugh and Judy. What I didn't mention was the wonderful source that Hugh showed me. It is a document written by Thomas Hunt the Lawyer (c1723-1789) entitled Truth Faileth so that Equality Cannot Enter: Exemplified from a short Abstract of the Proceedings in a Cause in the High Court of Chancery.

This document is a polemic, clearly intended to expose what Hunt saw as corruption that he had encountered in representing Bankes descendants in the Court of Chancery proceedings that concerned the Bankes Trust, and showing how his attempts to obtain just settlements for the people he represented were being thwarted at a very high level.In making his case, Hunt recounts certain experiences he had when serving as a Customs Officer in London between 1748 and 1757. Evidently after serving an apprenticeship as a lawyer he became a customs officer, and he only started to practice as a lawyer after he had left the service of the customs. He claimed that whilst he was a customs officer he had uncovered irregularities in the trading activities of the East India Company, involving gross avoidance of customs duties. He had left the service with a glowing testament as to his honesty and integrity from the then commissioners.

This is fascinating stuff, and provides great scope for further research. I shall be trying to follow up on this information when I next go to The National Archives, Kew.

This is a printed document, clearly intended to show its author as an honest, upright citizen, and a number of eminent people he had encountered as corrupt. Thomas Hunt was, in the words of the old analogy, "banging his head against a brick wall" I wonder what he really hoped to gain from the exercise of printing and distributing it and, indeed , to whom it was distributed.

Having read this document, and also read the material outlined on my website relating to Thomas Hunt Baptist Minister, I think I can see certain similarities in the characters of this father and son. Both seem to have been unswerving in pursuit of what they saw as the truth, and very strong characters. Fascinating stuff.

That's it for now. Happy treeing to you all.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 10 July 2008

As I write this blog entry you find me working on the next edition of the Shropshire FHS Journal - due out in September. I have to prepare each edition a couple of months before the publication date, and it usually takes me up to four weeks to put the thing together. Of course, in addition to this quarterly demand on my time there is also the day to day editorial correspondence, and the business of reading and editing material sent to me for possible inclusion in the journal. When you add to that the other business that arises from membership of the society's committee you can see that the job of editor for a family history society is quite a large one.

Why does one do it?

Good question. To a certain extent I suppose it is altruism, but I would not be telling the truth if I pretended that the wish to help others is my only motive. I have always had a love of writing, and although the editor's role mainly involves dealing with other people's writings, it does give me a certain amount of opportunity to write content myself. I also enjoy the challenge of putting together a publication, which I hope is of reasonable quality, to a deadline. In addition to these factors, I have to say that being editor of the society's journal brings me quite a number of personal advantages in my research. For instance, I develop more contacts, so when I need a bit of help or advice I have a fairly large pool of expertise available to me. I also get to hear of new developments in the world of family history a little while before people who are not serving on a committee, including the availability of new resources. Perhaps the most valuable gain to me from my role as editor is the way in which my knowledge of our hobby gets extended through contacts with other researchers. You would probably be surprised to learn how often I have gained a new insight that I can use in my research from something that has arisen through helping somebody else with their research. Believe me, this happens a lot.

Our own society is having great difficulty in filling a number of important posts at present, and I know that other societies are experiencing similar problems. I urge you to consider involving yourself in the affairs of a family history society. Believe me, the more you put into a society the more you will get out of it.

I've had an exciting time since I last updated this blog. Firstly, I have been to two superb concerts. One was at Milton Keynes, and featured the Milton Keynes City Orchestra conducted by Sian Edwards. They were a fine bunch of musicians, and the evening was enhanced by a performance of Brams' Piano Concerto No 1 by the wonderful Freddie Kempf. Superb!

The other concert was, if anything, even more enjoyable. We went to our usual venue - Symphony Hall, Birmingham, to hear the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven's 9th (Choral) Symphony. The orchestra was joined by solo singers and the CBSO Chorus, and the sound created was truly wonderful. This was Sakari Oramo's farewell concert as conductor of the orchestra, and he could not have had a better send off!

Last Wednesday we were on Wimbledon Centre Court to see the men's singles quarter finals. We were there to see Andy Murray's campaign come to an end against Raphael Nadal, and to see Roger Federer beat Mario Ancic. What a treat to see these wonderful exponents of the game. I was never any good at tennis myself, but that doesn't stop me admiring these people. Our next engagement is tomorrow evening, when we go to see an open air production of Shakespeare's Hamlet at Stafford Castle. The open air Shakespeare productions at Stafford are always extremely good, with excellent casts and direction. However, the weather forecast for this event is rather poor, so somebody could be in for a soaking! Not us, however, as one of the most attractive features of watching Shakespeare at Stafford Castle is that the audience is under cover but the cast is not!

On the treeing front I've been as busy as ever of late. On a very wet Saturday morning the other week Jan and I spent a few hours at Stafford Records Office, collecting another batch of Blagg entries in the Cheadle parish registers. We made great headway, and I think that one more visit will probably complete the job. Then all I will have to do is type them up and send them off to Richard. It has taken me much longer than I expected to complete this job, but we get there in the end.

On 7 June it was the Shropshire FHS Open Day at the Shirehall, Shrewsbury. I was on the Help desk, with a number of other colleagues, and we were kept busy all day, trying to help visitors to the event with their research queries. This is an annual event, and always well attended. This year we had two excellent speakers. In the morning Colin Chapman spoke on the Poor Laws over the centuries. Colin is a very well known personality in the world of family history, and is best known for being the man who created the Chapman Codes - the three letter codes that are used to denote the various counties. In the afternoon our speaker was Nick Barratt, who is best known for his work on the BBC TV programme "Who do you think you are?". He gave a lively and very interesting presentation on the background to the tv series and other related matters. Everybody I spoke to said that they thoroughly enjoyed this talk - finding it both informative and entertaining.

Ten days ago Jan and I went to visit Hugh and Judy at their farm in Lincolnshire. Hugh is a descendant of Joseph Rand, half brother to John Bankes, on the Welsh line, so he is only distantly related to me. It was a pleasure to meet Hugh and Judy, and their lovely family, and we were treated to quite wonderful hospitality. We had a fine time, chatting about Bankes and the relevant parts of the Bankes Pedigree, and came away with some more very promising research ideas.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Howard, in Australia - another Bankes descendant of the line down from Joseph Rand, half brother to Bankes. He was good enough to share the details of his family tree with me, thus further expanding the Bankes Pedigree. He also gave me the exciting news that one of his family was a Knight of the Realm. How exciting! In the words of Howard

"Sir (William) Emrys Jones (1915-2001) became chief agricultural adviser to the Minister of Agriculture from 1967 to 1973, and was knighted in 1971. An obituary in the Telegraph states 'he played a leading role in boosting post-war agricultural production and probably had a greater influence on British farming than any other individual.’"

If you are interested, you can find a more detailed obituary to Sir William Emrys Jones on the Independent newspaper website, at

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 12 June 2008

Hello again.

Once again I have to report on a busy few weeks. Treeing has had to take second place to decorating over the past few weeks, as our home has been spruced up! Of course, there is a knock-on effect associated with decorating, insofar as the other regular jobs - gardening, car cleaning etc, also need to be accommodated. Thus things get a bit behind. However, the good news (so far as I'm concerned) is that we can now get back to our normal routine, and the treeing can soon assume its usual place in my agenda.

Other things have been going on as well. For instance, last Saturday was the Shropshire Family History Open Day and Fair in Shrewsbury. This was a most successful day, with plenty of punters coming through the door, many of them to listen to our two high profile speakers - Colin Chapman (he of the Chapman Codes) and Nick Barratt ( he of the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are?). I think I can safely say that the day was most enjoyable for all who attended.

On the treeing front, probably the most significant recent event was my visit to The National Archives, Kew. This took place a couple of weeks ago, when I joined a coach party run by the Shropshire Family History Society. I had some pretty good results from my research that day. As ever, I went to Kew clutching a long research list, but in the event it was a source that was not on the list that gave me the greatest joy.

Whilst browsing through the TNA catalogue I did what I always do in these situations and typed into the search box the words "Robert Hanham Collyer". Given the ubiquitous nature of this man, I was not too surprised when a couple of source references appeared on the screen - both references to court cases.

RHC being the type of person that he undoubtedly was - "pushy" could be considered quite a polite term - it should not surprise anybody that he was involved in litigation from time to time. We already knew that he was cited as co-respondent in an 1877 divorce case in London, for example. Well, the sources identified by this search concerned (a) the annulment of his marriage to Emily Jeans Clements in 1873 and (b) a case in 1877 when he was sued for money he was said to owe his solicitor - a certain Benjamin Humphries Van Tromp. Imagine that, being sued by your legal representative! Many people would be embarrassed by such an event, but from what I know of RHC I doubt that he was phased by it.

By the time I had identified these papers I was running a bit short of time. I managed to read them through and then photographed them, using my digital camera. Most of the photos of the divorce court papers are quite good, and when printed or viewed on screen they can be read. However, there is one rather blurred page, and sadly that is the page that bears the plaintiff's signature.I'll need to photograph that again when I next visit TNA.

The papers include the complaint by Emily, and RHC's response. He did not deny that Susannah Hawley nee McDonald, his first(?) wife, was still alive, but said that the couple had split up shortly after their marriage in 1845, and he had believed that she had died, having been informed of her death by so-called reliable source. As he could not recall the identity of this reliable source, I am more than a bit sceptical about this statement, but it seems to have been accepted by the court, and the marriage was annulled with custody of the couple's two children being awarded to Emily. I don't imagine that the court would really have been taken in by RHC's response, but they appear to have been happy to accept it. Anything for a quiet life?

The photos of the papers for the second case were rather disappointing - quite blurred (the result of hurried photography and a shaky hand). I'll re-take the photographs on my next visit to TNA, and tell you about this case then.

Incidentally, I found out during this visit that you can get quite a decent result from photographing a microfilm or microfiche image off the screen. Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't. It certainly worked well when I tried it, having been inspired to do so by observing my fellow researchers.

In the meantime the hunt for John Bankes's parentage continues. I discovered that Hertfordshire Archives have created a magnificent index - Hertfordshire Names Online. According to Ancestors magazine it "allows researchers to search the entire index of genealogical material and documents" (June 2008 issue, p 58), and certainly it encompasses a very large range of sources, including apprenticeship agreements 1599-1903. As I know that Bankes was apprenticed as a carpenter before he went to the City of London I checked his name across all the sources in this index; he wasn't there. If the index is as comprehensive as I'm led to believe I take that as fairly strong evidence that he didn't come from Hertfordshire.

As I said, the hunt continues ...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 16 May 2008

These blog entries seem to be getting less frequent. This is not evidence of a declining interest in the blog, or in Geoff's Genealogy. Rather, it is evidence of how busy I've been lately. Anyway, here goes with the latest update.

A number of noteworthy developments have occurred in my treeing since my last blog entry. I've continued my correspondence with Ronnie, relating to the Collyer and Clements families, and Ronnie has very kindly sent me some of his lovely family photos, plus details of his line of descent from a sibling of Emily Jeans Clements, the young girl who married Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC) in London in 1864. In return I've sent him some information about RHC. Goodness knows, there is plenty of that.

Ronnie has kindly sent me a a couple of US census entries for the son of RHC and Emily - Robert L Collyer. Evidently he migrated to the US in the 1880s, and by 1910 was living in San Francisco. He was also there in 1920.

As well as the census entries, Ronnie found Robert on a couple of San Francisco voters lists. It seems, from what we know, that Robert L Collyer did not marry. The records that Ronnie found show him as a single man, living as a boarder. We do not know why he went to the US, and who may have travelled with him. The obvious thought is that he may have joined his father - and may even have travelled across the Atlantic with RHC, but I haven't yet found the relevant ship's passenger list.

There is much more to learn about all this. Ronnie is keeping an eye open for more records relating to RHC. The thing I'd love to find is the record of his death, which was said to have occurred c1890 in the New Orleans area. Apparently there is no trace of this in the New Orleans records.

The Drayton family appears in the Bankes pedigree in 1830, when George Box Drayton (GBD) (1784-1857) married a Bankes descendant - Martha Hunt (1796-1875). Martha was a daughter of Rev Thomas Hunt (1762-1844) and Maria Edwards (bef 1774-1848), who feature prominently on the Geoff's Genealogy website, Thomas being a Baptist minister.

GBD was a surgeon, born in Gloucester. He spent quite a lot of his life in London, and was buried in the capital, at Abney Park Cemetery. Over the years I have traced quite a bit of information about the Draytons in the form of census entries. It seems clear that they were a prosperous family, and as far as I have been able to trace, the children of George & Martha seem to have done well for themselves.

A while ago, whilst surfing around the net, I came across the website of the McGill University, Montreal, Canada, from which I learned that the university's Osler Library of Medicine holds a short written account of GBD's life, written in the early twentieth century by one of his grandsons. I readily paid the appropriate fee, and duly received the article, plus copies of two notices advertising lectures given on medical subjects by GBD in 1840, and copies of printouts which give considerable information about some of GBD's family.

What a treasure trove this is!

The piece about GBD contains some wonderful information about the life of a surgeon at the beginning of the nineteenth century - his training as an apprentice and his practice as a doctor - and pretty gory it is, too! There are quotations from the notes that GBD kept, describing his everyday experiences, and the author also drew on family correspondence in describing family events and portraying the character of some members of the Drayton family. The text is only six A4 pages long, but there is so much in those six pages!

Some members of the Drayton family became missionaries. George Drayton, son of GBD and Martha, apparently died in Tanzania in November 1867, and his wife of 17 months died in the same month, also in Tanzania. Caroline Box Drayton (1823-1902) was a daughter of GBD by his first wife - Louisa Butt. She became a missionary in the Caribbean and married George Ralph Henderson in Jamaica in 1843, a union that (I am told) produced ten children.

The two notices are quite revealing as well. I particularly liked the following line, which says a lot about class attitudes in the society of the 1840s:

The Lectures will not be Medical but as plain as the Lecturer can make them, and adapted to all Classes of Society

That's all for now.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Geoff' Genealogy Update 28 April 2008

Since my last blog entry I've been as busy as ever. Lots of new information has come to light, partly through new contacts made via Geoffs Genealogy and partly through contacts made via the Genes Reunited website.

My Culshaw research has been sadly neglected for a few years now, which is a shame, because I have made some wonderful friends in Lancashire during my work on this line, and also thoroughly enjoyed carrying out the research in places like Preston, Leyland and Ormskirk.

The truth is, I'm stuck, and have been for some years!

If anybody can tell me who were the parents of John Culshaw, born c1760, probably at Burscough, I'll be very grateful. I have searched as many Lancashire Wills as I have been able to, looked at some of the estate papers for the Earl of Derby's estate, and looked at as many parish registers as seem relevant, but the problem really is that there was more than one John Culshaw who came into the world at about that time, in the Ormskirk area, and I can't say which one was my ancestor.

Anyway, I made contact with Valerie, a Culshaw researcher who is registered with Genes Reunited. It turns out that Culshaw is not her main research interest, and her Culshaws are on the line I call the "Catholic Culshaws". This is to distinguish them from my forebears, some of whom were catholics, but most of whom were not.

The "Catholic Culshaws" have long attracted our interest because their lives seem to run parallel to my forebears. On the 1841 census for Farington the two households were living very near to one another, and they continued to live close to one another for most of the nineteenth century. Our belief has always been that there is very likely to be a link between the two families, but we have not yet found it. If there was a link, it must be pre 1760.

Anyway, it was good to exchange trees with Valerie, and to make one another aware of our respective interests. Who knows, one day we may be able to link up our trees!

Another Genes Reunited contact was on the Hewitt line. In his Hawkridge tree Arthur has a certain Charlotte Hewitt, born Ardwick, Manchester in 1858. She was a sister of my great grandfather - Arthur Thomas Hewitt (1852-1915). I knew she had married a certain George Pratt in 1878 and that he had died before the date of the 1881 census, in April 1881. What I didn't know was that she then married John Frederick Hawkridge (b 1851 at Derby) with whom she produced four children. This intelligence set me off researching this clan, and I traced the births of their children and also the available relevant census entries (1891 & 1901). I also traced some army service papers re one of the sons of John and Charlotte - Thomas Hawkridge (b 1890).

Arthur lives in the USA, and has a most impressive Hawkridge pedigree.

These examples point up the benefit that can be gained from websites such as Genes Reunited. I don't keep up my membership long term, preferring to pay for a short term membership every now and again, but there is no doubt that the network of researchers on GR has grown a lot since I was last a member, a few years ago.

Among recent visitors to
Geoffs Genealogy was Ronnie, my recently acquired contact in the USA. He is descended on the Clements line. Emily Jeans Clements features in the Bankes pedigree because she married Robert Hanham Collyer as a 16 year old girl in London in 1864. He was aged 50 at the time, and already married! After the couple had produced two children Emily evidently realised that her spouse's first wife was still alive, and sued for divorce - a very rare event in 1873. Anyway, the marriage was annulled in London. Robert Hanham Collyer said at the hearing that he had not heard from his wife for many years, and had believed her dead. I assume that this explanation was accepted by the court, because he was not imprisoned for bigamy. My last sighting of Emily in the records was on the 1881 census, when she was living at Camberwell, Surrey, with her two children, aged 15 & 14. I don't know what became of her after that. Her daughter, another Emily, married William Sleigh (I wrote about this marriage in this blog a year ago). I don't know what happened to the son - Robert L Collyer, who was born in France c1867.

Ronnie is descended from one of Emily's siblings, and has provided me with a wealth of material about the Clements family, including some lovely photographs. Obviously, the Clements line is not of direct relevance to the Banks pedigree, but I'm always delighted to receive information such as this, as apart from its intrinsic interest, it helps to put the characters who married into the Bankes descendants' lines into their context.

Thankyou Ronnie.

As if all that were not enough I've also had very enjoyable contact with Bankes descendants who are descended on the Welsh line from Joseph Rand, half brother of Bankes. I've long taken a great interest in the Welsh line, for a number of reasons. Firstly, Jan & I visit Carmarthenshire quite often, so are able to use the relevant local records quite easily. Secondly, this branch of the pedigree has within it a lot of very interesting people. On the whole they were quite prosperous people, so they have left behind them a decent quantity of records. Finally, my interest has been kept up by the fact that I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the people descended on the Welsh branch - and very pleasant people they have proved.

It has long been my aim to add a section on these Welsh Bankes descendants to Geoffs Genealogy, but as yet that ambition remains unfulfilled. So much to do, and so little time in which to do it. Still, hope springs eternal .....

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 05 April 2008

I'm a bit late writing this entry on my blog, so apologies for that.

Since my last entry the time has passed so quickly! We have had the earliest Easter holiday of my lifetime, which we spent decorating - a necessary evil. Just before Easter Jan & I went to Birmingham to see a Welsh National Opera performance of Verdi's Falstaff, with Bryn Terfel in the title role. What a treat this was. Terfel is the most fantastic Falstaff ever, I'm sure, and the rest of the cast were simply wonderful. The performance passed so quickly! The following week it was shown on S4C tv, who had recorded the performance in Cardiff, so we were able to enjoy it all over again. A real treat.

We are eagerly awaiting details of Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival, to be held in North Wales in August. I keep on checking the website (every day!) but still no news!

Last week we went to Symphony Hall to hear the CBSO perform Beethoven's 5th Symphony under the baton of Louis Langree - an exhiliarating performance of a familiar but enduringly brilliant work. The programme also included a performance of Bartok's 3rd Piano Concerto, with soloist Andreas Haefliger. This, also, was wonderful.

Symphony Hall was only about half full for this performance, which was a bit surprising to me. The seats are not particularly expensive, and it seems to me sad that more people don't take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy such world class music in world class surroundings.

On the treeing front I've been as active as ever. I've had some very interesting contacts with people who have visited the
Geoffs Genealogy website, and found something there that interests them. The research I've been doing over this period has mainly centred on the Heppell line, which I've mentioned several times on this blog - mainly last year.

Regular readers of this blog (yes - I assure you - there are some!) may recall that among my finds when I made my trip to London on 12 February was a probate entry relating to the estate of Anna Maria (Holt) Heppell, who died on 21 February 1866. This stated that her sole kinsman was her son, Richard William George Heppell, who lived at that time in a place called Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York state, USA. I thought I would see what I could find out about this man and his life in the USA, and this is what I have been doing of late - with quite good results.

First of all I found Richard and his wife on a couple of US censuses. I noted that on the 1870 US Census he was married to a lady who had, like him, been born in England. I also noted that the children of this couple had been born in New York, USA. I therefore surmised that they probably married before going to the USA.

I found Richard and his wife on the passenger list of the vessel City of London, which arrived in New York on 21 August 1866, indicating that they were, indeed, married before their emigration. This led me to trace their, marriage in the civil registration indexes - Richard William George Heppell m Harriet Sarah Houghton and the event was registered in the December quarter of 1865 in Pancras, Middlesex district registry.

I went on to look for family members on successive US census entries which are available online, which gave me a great deal of information, not only about Richard and Harriet and their ten children, but also about the families of their children. The finds I made gave me information that extends some branches of the research right through to 1930. I ascertained that Richard William George Heppell must have died between the 1900 and 1910 censuses, and also that his son - Richard H Heppell (b 1868) took part in the Alaskan gold rush which started in 1909. In 1910 he was enumerated as one of many miners in the goldrush town of East Nome.

I was very pleased with all this. I had found out so much interesting information that the fact that I had not found the deaths of many of these folk did not concern me too much. However, I decided to carry out an internet search for Heppell in New York and came up with a website that contains an index to the burials at Forest Hill cemetery, Fredonia, New York. This, I now know, was the burial place of many of the Heppell clan, and there they all were! Not only that, but the index includes some of the maiden names of some of the spouses of Heppell males, the names of the parents of many of the deceased, and the cause of death of many of the deceased. Fantastic!

All this information has been added to my records. Yes, I know, I should check the original source, but at the moment I do not have the means to do that ..... unless of course the LDS has filmed it.

Another avenue to pursue sometime. This treeing lark never stops, does it???

Friday, 7 March 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 07 March 2008

When I signed off last time I said that in this entry I'll tell you about how Helen and I spent our afternoon in London on 12 February, so here goes ....

I have been visiting London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) at Islington for more than 15 years. and the venue has certainly seen some changes in that time. For a start, the name - when I first went there it was called the Greater London Records Office.

If you are researching family or local history in the Greater London area you are sure to need to visit LMA at some time. It holds a vast range of sources, including items as diverse as parish registers, directories, local authority records, photographs and the Middlesex Deeds Registers. At present it also holds the records usually held at the Corporation of London Records Office in the City of London, and these include the records of Freedoms of the City of London. It holds these records while the Guildhall in the City of London is undergoing some alterations, but they will be returning to their usual home in due course.

The LMA is, itself, in a period of considerable renovation at present, and in fact was closed for a period until a few weeks ago. More details about LMA can be obtained from the LMA

When I go on a research trip I always take a long list of research jobs to do. I never manage to do anything like everything that is on the list, but I find that if I get fed up working on one area of research it is good to have a choice of other things to do. I find it good for morale to always come home with some sort of positive result - even if it is something that does not seem all that important to my research. I therefore make sure that my list includes a few "soft targets".

On this occasion I decided to look at the parish registers for Christ Church, Spitalfields, concentrating on the baptisms 1843-1875. I knew from the IGI that this record should include several entries relating to the Hazeltine and Winmill families. Adam Hazeltine was the first spouse of Mary Ann Smedley (b 1819), and George Winmill was her second husband.

Sure enough, I found the entries I expected. We should always aim to check entries found on the IGI against the original register, partly because it is always possible that the index entry contains an error, but also because the original entry may well contain information that is not shown on the IGI. In the entries I looked at I found out the father's stated occupation and the address of the household for each entry.

We also found the baptism, at St Thomas, Stepney in 1857, of William Thomas Archer, son of Samuel and (we assume) Emma Mayhew. Oddly, the mother was not named in this entry. We think that this was merely an oversight on the part of the vicar, as in the next entry the mother's name was also omitted. Very odd.

Helen and I looked for a number of other entries at LMA, without success. That was a bit disappointing, but our disappointment was tempered by the several good finds that I had made when looking at the Wills Calendars in the morning. We adjourned to Euston Station for a well earned burger meal and a punctual ride home, courtesy of Virgin Rail.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 17 February 2008

Hello again.

I visited London last Tuesday, with my daughter Helen. Helen was on a business trip, and I was treeing, so we travelled down from Wolverhampton early in the morning then went our separate ways, meeting up again in the afternoon.

I had never before visited the offices of HM Courts Service at First Avenue House, Holborn, so I decided to use this occasion to rectify this omission. As is my wont, I took with me a lengthy list of items to research. I always set myself far too many tasks on these trips, but at least I never run out of things to do!

The system in operation at this venue is very simple. There are a series of racks containing quite large books. These contain the probate calendars, which list and summarise the Wills and Administrations dealt with by HMCR. They date from 1858, when the Church Courts ceased to deal with probates, to about 1995. There are a number of books for each year, and each year is split alphabetically. You simply find the book you need and look for the entry that interests you. If you find it you will probably want to annotate the details of the entry, but if you wish you can order a copy of the document. I ordered copies of three wills, which will take about a week to arrive by post, and cost me £5.00 each. It is also possible to obtain a copy will one hour after ordering it.

If you want to order a copy of a Will you need to complete a simple form and take the relevant calendar to an official, who checks that you have completed your application correctly. You then pay your money to a cashier, who takes your order for processing.

I imagine you are all agog, wanting to know whether I found anything of great interest. Well, in my three hours stay I managed to cover about 3/4 of my list. I'll mention a few.

As I expected, my poor old Smith forebears do not appear to have left wills - not even my mum's uncle Jim - James Archer Smith - who had his own businesses and was said by members of the family to have been quite prosperous.

I did have quite a number of successes, however. Ralph Hewitt (d. 1938) left a will, as did Caleb Oliver and his wife Alicia Blandina, who died in 1879 and 1897 respectively. Alicia was the daughter of Samuel William Archer (1790-1870).

I found records of the wills of Hannah Archer (1818-1904) and her brother Samuel Archer (1822-1889). I also was able to trace the probates relating to children of Thomas Hunt (1798-1897) and his wife Martha Mary Colam (1808-1861). They were Matilda Hunt (1831-1908), Esther Maria Hunt (1833-1911)

The most surprising information I found was contained in the probate calendar entry for Ann Maria (Holt) Heppell (c1817-1886), the widow of Richard Bryan Heppell (1812-1861). Her son and only next of kin was Richard William George Heppell, who was said to be living in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, USA. No wonder I had not traced his death in the UK records! I may be able to find him in the USA censuses online at Ancestry.

You can find all the above people on the tree at www.geoffsgenealogy.co.uk.

Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you what the calendar entries actually tell us. Well, they follow a pretty set format, and basically tell us the name of the deceased, his or her address, the date and location of the death, the date and location of probate or admons, the name of the person to whom probate was granted and the value of the estate. In my experience, many of these entries contain as much information as the full will - but not always.

You can see these calendars on microfiche at many libraries or records offices in England and Wales, but the records at First Avenue House are more up to date, so if you want to see a record relating to more recent probate you will need to go there.

I spent the rest of the day at the revamped London Metropolitan Archives. I may tell you about that next time.

Good hunting.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 January 2008

Hello again.

Since I last made an entry on this blog the focus of my activity has been preparing the March edition of the Shropshire Family History Society Journal. It is now just about completed.

I wonder how many of the people who read this blog are members of a family history society. I've mentioned this old chestnut before, in previous postings. In my opinion it is well worth joining at least one society. In addition to Shropshire FHS I also belong to East of London FHS, as I have research interests in that part of London.

SocietyMembership enables you to avail yourself of the knowledge and expertise of your fellow members in many different ways. It may also bring you in touch with other people with similar research interests to you. If you belong to a society that is local to you you will be able to attend its regular meetings (usually monthly), meet people and listen to a talk on a family history related topic. Furthermore, family history society members all over the country have produced a great many indexes to the nominal records that we use in our research, and made them available in various forms. Without them, your research would undoubtedly be much more difficult.

As if that were not sufficient, many societies run coach trips to record offices that may be difficult for you to get to under your own steam. In my case, the Shropshire FHS runs trips to The National Archives. True, you have to get up early to make the trip, but once that ordeal is behind you you can look forward to a pleasant ride to Kew, followed by about six hours of research and a sleep on the way home! What could be better?

The next such trip is in May, and I shall soon be reserving my place on it.

Apart from working on the SFHS journal, in the past couple of weeks Pat and I have carried out a bit more Guyatt research, and resolved a couple more conundrums. I've had some more contact with a lady who is a distant cousin of Jan on her Maliphant line, and exchanged a couple of emails with an researcher whose interests encompass the Collyers and Sleighs.

Both of our sons have celebrated their birthdays in the past ten days. In the case of Alex it was his 21st, so we went out to a local hotel for a lovely family meal.

As if that were not enough, on a sodden Saturday a couple of weeks ago Jan and I went to Shrewsbury Music Hall to enjoy our first concert of the year. Swansea City Opera are a small, touring company, and we've seen them perform twice previously. This time they performed Mozart's The Magic Flute, and it truly was a very good show. It always amazes me what a good sound this company's musicians produce from the half a dozen instruments that they bring on tour, and the singing was of a very good standard. All in all, a very good evening - and a packed house as well!

Our next musical outing will be in March, when we go to Birmingham to see Welsh National Opera perform Falstaff. Bryn Terfel is scheduled to perform the title role, and as both Jan and I love all things Terfel we simply can't wait for this outing! We pray that the great man doesn't lose his voice on the day!

That's about all I've got to say tonight, so I'll sign off for another couple of weeks.

Happy hunting to you all!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Website Updates - 13 January 2008

Last Sunday Helen and I put a series of updates on to the Geoffs Genealogy website, as the latest stage of our ongoing updating process. Over the past few weeks I have been through all the pages of text on the site and amended them so that they are up to date as of now. In most cases this has involved the correction of a few errors (typos mainly), the addition of an odd sentence or paragraph of text, the changing or addition of a date here and there, and appropriate additions to the references pages.

In the case of the webpage Arthur Ackland Hunt - Artist the changes made are quite significant. Firstly, courtesy of Richard Bradley, I am able to share with you two wonderful photographs - of Arthur Ackland Hunt and his wife - Emma Sarah Blagg.In addition to this, I have added a newspaper report of the marriage of Arthur and Emma in 1879, an image of one of the Blagg family homes in Cheadle, and a short section of information about the Blagg family.

As readers of this blog will know, I am in the process of gleaning information about the Blaggs from the Cheadle parish registers, and I hope that eventually I shall be able to expand my coverage of this family.

On the Thomas Hunt, Doctor page the main addition is a superb image of the doctor himself, which I only received last week. Again, my thanks to Richard Bradley for allowing me to share this picture with you.

I have added quite a large number of websites to the Geoffs Genealogy Links page, and hope that you will find them to be useful and informative. I try to include a wide variety of relevant links - some well known and others not so well known - and also confine myself to sites that I consider to be reliable sources of information.

I have tried to bring the Geoffs Genealogy tree completely up to date, but not quite made it, I'm afraid. If you have sent me some material and you can't find it there I apologise. I shall be beavering away over the next few months, trying to correct any such omissions. I have to say, however, that I have added a great deal of information to the tree, and I hope that visitors to the site will find it even more interesting than previously.

Among the areas of the Geoffs Genealogy Tree that I have expanded significantly in the last year are the following:

My thanks to Brenda for sharing her information with me. Thanks to her the Archer section of the tree is greatly expanded, and includes information on the line down from Thomas Archer (1786-c1866) the brother of Nathan Archer, my ancestor.

Charles Heppell married my great aunt - Alice Victoria Smith - in 1891 at Shoreditch, and thus the Heppells became part of my family tree. I was greatly surprised when I started to look into the Heppell family history and found that they came from Sunderland in the North East of England. There is much still to be discovered on this line of research, but I have made a fair start, I think.

My mother's uncle Jim was James Archer Smith (1877-1957), who I knew had married a lady named Ophelia. That was as much as I knew up to a year ago, but after digging into Ophelia's life story I find that she was born Ophelia Eliza Florence Worthy in 1865. She married a certain William Henry Kerr in 1882 at Bethnal Green, had seven Kerr children, and was widowed sometime between 1896 and 1901. She then married mum's uncle Jim and died in 1928 at Hoxton. I have no idea whether or not mum knew all that; I found the reserach quite fascinating, and wrote about it on my blog during the period February - March 2007.

Next I need to inveestigate James Archer Smith's second marriage, but for now I've added theinformation about Ophelia to the tree.

My thanks to Chris Marshall for sharing with me her information about her line of descent from Benjamin Culshaw (b 1828) and his spouse Barbara Blackwell (b 1828). This has added a great deal to my Culshaw family tree. I still have more of Chris's information to add, as she has sent me some material relating to her Heaps ancestors. Hopefully I'll manage this during 2008.

Early in 2007 I was contacted by a Sleigh descendant of Robert Hanham Collyer(1814-1891) and his wife Emily Jeans Clements (born c1847), and the tree now includes some information on this line.

Da Costa
I spent some time during 2007 researching the Da Costa family, using civil registration indexes and censuses. I made great progress, and have therefore been able to add quite a lot of information to this brance of the pedigree. In case you are wondering, around the turn of the 18th-19th centuries two of the daughters of William Hunt (b 1763) married two Da Costa brothers. I now know that one of them - Antonio Da Costa - was the Brazilian Vice Consul during the mid nineteenth century.

Thanks to Ted George in Australia I have been able to add quite a lot to our knowledge of this clan, and that is reflected in the tree. Ted's forebear - Albert George Benzoni -
dropped the "Benzoni" and adopted "George" as the family surname, hence Ted's surname. I mention this in case you wonder why I show the surname of some of the people on the tree as "Benzoni/George".

This was my genealogical highlight of 2007, and was the subject of a number of entries on my blog. This time last year I was completely stuck on my Guyatt research, and had been so stuck for about ten years. Now I'm again stuck - but not at the same point! I'm eagerly seeking the next breakthrough, and hoping that it is not another ten years away! Visitors to the Guyatt section of the tree will find much that is new there. What I now need to know is the birthplace of my John Guyatt, born about 1784 and maried to Hannah Wright in 1817 at High Wycombe. Any offers?

My grateful thanks to my cousin, Pat, for all her help in sorting out the various conundrums that came to light in researching William Freeman Guyatt and his family. We finally got to the bottom of it all, and uncovered some wonderful material. I shall be working towards incorporating it into Geoffs Genealogy as soon as I can.

Whilst researching the Guyatts I was also able to develop the Smedley family history a little. Much remains to be done on this, but the new information is included in the tree, and I hope that we shall learn more before too long.

And more besides
In addition to the above I have added much to many other areas of the Bankes pedigree, using online records - mainly census returns and civil registration indexes. This is a stage in my ongoing effort to "dot the Is and cross the Ts" as much as possible, and I shall continue with this work during 2008. My approach to this is a bit random - I just tend to pick on an individual on the tree and see what I can find.

I think that more or less covers the latest batch of updates. I hope you will find something of interest in Geoffs Genealogy. If so, please let me know, and if you think you may be able to help
add to our knowledge I shall be highly delighted to hear from you.